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UN Chief Considers Proposal For Special Humanitarian Envoy To Zimbabwe


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he will take up the crisis in Zimbabwe with President Robert Mugabe next week at the U.N. General Assembly and consider a reported British proposal for a U.N. special envoy to the country.

Ban said in an interview with Britain’s ITV News that he would see Mr. Mugabe during next week's U.N. gathering and at that time would "convey the concerns of the U.N. and international community that he should do more to establish democratic institutions" as well as examining humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

Ban said he was "deeply concerned about the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe," adding that the Harare government should try to improve conditions to relieve the plight of its population.

The ITN interviewer said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown would ask the Security Council to appoint a humanitarian envoy to Zimbabwe, and asked Ban if he would support the proposal. The U.N. chief said he awaited Brown's proposal in detail, but, "As far as I am concerned, again, this is a matter of priority to help the Zimbabwean people...I will continue to discuss this matter with Security Council members."

Asked if he was considering sending an envoy, Ban responded: "That's what I'll try to consider with my senior advisers, what exactly is the situation, and what the role of the humanitarian special envoy would be...We have been trying to dispatch a high-level official but somehow that has not been realized."

A Zimbabwean diplomat in response said Ban had no mandate to intervene in the country's affairs. Zimbabwean Ambassador to the U.N. Boniface Chidyausiku said the Secretary General had no brief to use the General Assembly to “rally international leaders,” as Chidyausiku put it, “towards pushing for a special envoy to Zimbabwe.”

Sources said Mr. Mugabe wrote to Ban to request a meeting during the Assembly.

But Chidyausiku told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the meeting was a mere formality, adding that if Ban wants to discuss sending an envoy to Zimbabwe he should take it up directly with Mr. Mugabe.

National Coordinator Jacob Mafume of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition also voiced skepticism on the point of the U.N. special envoy, but for a different reason – he noted that the recommendations of two previous envoys have not been implemented.

Note: This is a corrected version of a story initially posted Sept. 21, which erroneously reported that Ban Ki-moon intended to seek support among U.N. members to send a special envoy to Zimbabwe, as opposed to responding to a British proposal.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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